Latitudes & Attitudes, Grenadines Share-the-Sail 2012
Attitude is the difference between adventure and an ordeal.
A sea turtle grazes on the grasses in the Tabago Cays.
Picture courtesy of Chris and his underwater camera.
Friday, May 4, 2012
Wow! What a start to our adventure. We awoke at 0200 (Kathy) and 0300 (me) to intermittent thunderstorms. Susan, our neighbor, took us to the airport, where the first thing we heard about was a flight diverted to Grand Rapids from Chicago yesterday due to weather and now delayed until this afternoon. Amazingly, our flight was still listed as on-time, and after a short delay to allow fuel to be put aboard during a break in the lightening, we boarded and took off. We skirted a few storms coming over the lake then touched down in Chicago--the first leg was complete. The flight from Chicago to San Juan, Puerto Rico was lengthy, but not too bad until it became time to land. Clouds surrounded Puerto Rico, and the turbulence and rain worsened as we approached the airport. I was in the port-side window seat, and we were hanging off the side of the runway, kind of crabbing our way in--it wasn't pretty. Apparently the pilot agreed and hit the thrusters. We circled out over the Atlantic then came back for a second attempt. This time the alignment was good, but the rain was torrential. Again the pilot voted "no" and we were off over the ocean. This time there was no circling back. The pilot came over the PA to announce we didn't have sufficient fuel to attempt a third landing, so we were off to St. Croix, 25 minutes away, to land and refuel. That landing, fortunately, went well, and we were soon on our way back to San Juan, where it was now raining just lightly. The pilot stuck the landing to the applause and great relief of all aboard.
Kathy's surprise vacation had definitely gotten off to a rough start. We were headed to Martinique to take part in a Share-the-Sail adventure organized by Captain Woody of Latitudes & Attitudes Magazine. The fleet would consist of seven Catana Catamarans sailing out of Dream Yacht Charter in Le Marin. We would spend time working our way south to the famous Tabago Cays, then two boats (including ours) would return to Martinique while the other five finished in St. Vincent. I had chosen to return to Martinique because the flights home would be more direct and easier to arrange than from St. Vincent. I was trying to spare Kathy the stress of the little island-hopping flights, but I think she had already had her stress!
Our layover in San Juan had been considerably shortened, from six hours to two-and-a-half by the events. Needless to say, we had a margarita with dinner at the Margaritaville restaurant at the airport. Back at the terminal we met met a few fellow adventurers from the Share-the-Sail group, including Gordon, who would be part of our crew. We picked up a bottle of 1800 Tequila and some wine at the duty-free store, because prices were reputed to be almost double on Martinique. I would later gain somewhat of a reputation for being that skinny guy who polished off a bottle of 1800.
Our flight on the turboprop to Martinique went well, and clearing Immigrations was a snap. M. Blirando, our taxi driver arranged by the hotel, was waiting with a placard with our name on it as we picked up our luggage. He took us to Hotel La Pagerie, where we wasted no time falling asleep.
Sunset over Admiralty Bay, Bequia
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Much more refreshed upon wakening, we took advantage of the hotel's breakfast buffet. Kathy, braver than I, sampled the eggs and sausage. They had a nice spread of lunch meat, cheeses and fruit that sounded better to me.
M. Blirando took us to the marina in Le Marin, where we encountered part of the Lats & Atts crowd at the bar. Somehow, our crew drew the short straw and ended up in the smallest, and oldest, of the catamaran fleet, a 43 foot Catana named Da Vinci (referred to by all of us as Dementia, kind of a commentary on both the boat and her crew). It was having "technical difficulties", so we couldn't get onboard to stow our gear or inventory it for provisioning, so we did what all good sailors do and drank. We also got acquainted with our crew mates, Captain Jeff and his wife, Marie, both experienced world cruisers, used to entertaining aboard a boat; Chris and Joyce, Floridians experienced in fishing, connoisseurs of conch ceviche and impressive beer drinkers; and Gordon, an engineer and future cruiser with excellent boat handling skills and an entertainingly dry sense of humor who we had met earlier in San Juan.
Eventually, we got aboard and found out just how tiny our cabin was--and no A/C for Kathy. Fortunately, we had a forward cabin with great ventilation. We stowed our gear as best we could. The berth was a little high for Kathy to climb into easily, and she developed a clever backward somersault technique for getting into bed, a source of amusement for me and everyone we told about it. A trip to the local grocery store with our crew mates resulted in a few days' provisions and drinks, including a couple jars of Nutella in which Marie had mentioned some interest and which would become somewhat of a joke as Kathy became temporarily addicted to it. We ate dinner at the marina bar, where there was live entertainment featuring local cultural dancing and singing. We had been fortunate enough to obtain a couple bathroom key-cards, and enjoyed a relaxing shower before bed.
Marie oversees provisioning aboard Da Vinci, aka Dementia
Sunday, May 6, 2012
We actually slept quite well overnight. We awoke to discover the refrigeration had gone out, so we had to have the marina repairman back onboard. The crew cooked scrambled eggs, which we enjoyed with yogurt for breakfast. Finally, things were ready, and the charter folks assisted us out of the marina.
We headed out of the bay and pointed toward St. Lucia. Captain Jeff had us under sail in no time. About a third of the way across, it became clear we were going to be getting wet. A front line stretched across the visible horizon, and that horizon was closing fast. I took my turn at the helm and prepared to take a shower. The winds quickened, and it began to pour. The rains would be in for the night. We first approached Rodney Bay, then decided the group must be at Marigot Bay, and changed course to take us there.
The local boat boys approached and directed us to a mooring, helping with the lines. All but one boat in our fleet of seven catamarans was there when we arrived. Bob Bitchin was floating around in the water, oblivious to the downpour. Captain Jeff took our passports ashore, then returned drenched to retrieve the ship's papers he had forgotten the first time. Proper protocol is to fly the yellow quarantine flag until the vessel has been granted Pratique, permission to use the port, but our boat lacked such a flag, so we just made certain our courtesy flag for the country was properly displayed.
We spread the cabin canvas to help shield us from the rain and broke out the drinks. The women whipped up a great chicken pasta dish for dinner. In spite of the rain, the harbor was beautiful with lush steep sides and the lights of surrounding houses.
Our outboard porthole proved to be quite leaky in the rain, so we had some drying out to do, but we slept well anyway. Later, Gordon would enlighten me that he, too, had the same problem, and it was curable by cleaning off the window seal.
Bob Bitchin, founder of Lats & Atts, greets the arriving boats in Marigot Bay, St. Lucia
Monday, May 7, 2012
Everyone was up early this morning for the run past St. Vincent to Admiralty Bay in Bequia. The weather broke overnight, and we headed out under partially cloudy skies. We originally planned to sail west of St.Vincent, but the Eastern route had a better sailing angle, so we altered course. The winds came 15-20 knots as we cleared the southern tip of St. Lucia--great sailing! We were able to dry some of our clothes and towels in the breeze.
The Pitons of St. Lucia
The winds increased to 25-28 knots before went into the shadow of St. Vincent. We traveled close enough to shore to see the island nicely. The winds increased again once we passed Kingston. We just missed a squall, and the temperature dropped to become quite comfortable.
We came into Admiralty Bay and found two boats from the fleet already on moorings. We chose to anchor instead, saving $50 ECD and getting some good practice. We would later learn that we also gained a great breeze and absence of insects that the moored boats didn't get to enjoy. Captain Jeff went ashore to clear customs ($167 ECD, including after-hours fees). Of course, it started raining on him!
When Jeff returned, we dove on our anchor to assure ourselves it was well-buried. The water felt great! I saw a couple of urchins, but not much else under there. There was quite a bit of trash, bottles mostly--a bit of a shame.
Cocktail hour was on again. Everyone on our crew really meshes well together, a tribute to Woody's questionnaire and the general nature of Lats & Atts readers. Dinner consisted of pork chops and a rice dish that, although the texture was different than expected, tasted great!
An overlook of Admiralty Bay, Bequia
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Kathy and I were up fairly early and showered under the deck fresh water sprayer after a brief swim. We had to quiet down the local bread salesman as he tried to sell his wares to us from his little boat. After breakfast, we all headed ashore for some exploration and reprovisioning. Our stroll through the town led us first to the Frangipani bar, highly recommended by my Lonely Planet guide. Some partook in Bloody Mary's here, and we signed up for dinner. We checked out the shops and markets, then ended up in a restaurant on a hill to gaze down on the harbor. We had run into Woody in town, and he alerted us to a BBQ dinner being planned for the entire fleet that evening, so we changed our evening plans. The owner of the place on the hill turned out to be associated with Jack's bar, the site of the evening BBQ, and provided us lots of advise for provisioning. We took advantage of the local knowledge and stocked up on goodies for the remainder of our trip.
After cocktails, we readied ourselves for the party, locked up the boat (everyone on the island knew our group was going to the party, and the area was known to have occasional issues with theft) and dinghied ashore. The dinner and band were excellent, and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The Southern Cross was visible in the night sky as we boarded the dinghy for our return trip.
We slept soundly, awakening just once to close the portholes against a brief storm.
We're having a party!
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
We arose early and were the first boat out of the harbor, headed for Mayreau by the Tobago Cays. Our target was Salt Whistle Bay. With sunny skies and 15 knot winds, we had a great sail. The autopilot wouldn't hold course with the water maker running, so I hand steered most of the way. We anchored at our destination. Over the next couple hours, the other boats showed up, most grabbing moorings, some anchoring. The locals in boats came up to sell their wares and invite us to their shops and bars.
After a snack, we headed ashore, Kathy and Marie to peruse the clothing stands, Gordon and I to the Last Bar Before the Jungle, for a couple beers. Chris and Joyce snorkeled. Kathy managed to score a sarong. I took a turn at the dinghy on the return trip, learning a bit about it.
Back on the boat, it was swimming time, followed by lunch and cocktails. Then, someone started a dinghy conga line parade, so some of us grabbed our drinks and joined the fun. Bob Bitchin filmed us going by for their TV program.
Jeff and Chris had scored some fresh conch from the locals, and Joyce and Chris whipped up a great ceviche. We sat around drinking and visiting, then finally whipped up a quick dinner of hors d'oeuvres--salami, pate, cheeses and crackers. Kathy and I relaxed on the trampoline long after everyone else had retired to bed, enjoying the night sky.
We scrambled awake again that night to close the portholes to a brief downpour.
Shopping on Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau
Steve and Gordon enjoy some cold beer at the Last Bar Before the Jungle
Thursday, May 10, 2012
We awoke early again. Kathy, Gordon and I sat around talking and enjoying our coffee and tea. We bought some ice from a local boat guy for the beer cooler. A scrambled egg dish and banana bread (from the local bread man in a boat from the previous morning) made for breakfast, then it was time for a morning swim.
We motored around the point and over to the Tobago Cays, watching a dark cloud with an equally dark downpour pass just north of us, but we got lucky.
The quick trip to the anchorage by Jamesby Island was absolutely beautiful. Our line of boats carefully navigated between reefs and three tiny islands in a narrow channel that looked like the quintessential Caribbean scene. We ended up anchoring behind Horseshoe reef in stunning emerald blue water, maybe eight feet deep. The park rangers wasted no time hustling overto collect their $10 EC per head per day fee.
A dark line of rain showers marched in, so we waited and savored some more conch ceviche while they passed before donning snorkeling gear and exploring the area around the boat and the nearby reef. There were a lot of brightly colored fish to see and some coral. In the shallow clear water, it felt like swimming in an aquarium. Kathy and I paused on our way back to the boat to watch a turtle, totally unconcerned by our presence, graze on grasses.
The beautiful Tobago Cays
Captain Woody had made plans for another beach BBQ, but we had so much food aboard that we decided to skip it. This proved to be a wise decision, because the weather wasn't too cooperative, and apparently a lot of people didn't end up attending.
A line of strong winds, peaking out at 36.8 knots and a rain squall came through after we were back on the boat. Dinner consisted of seared tuna, the popular rice dish, and a cabbage cole slaw. Someone came over the radio with rumors of a hurricane, Alec (they even named it!), forming off Barbados that might force us to hole up in Grenada prior to heading north again. After an extensive communications effort by Bob and his team of captains, no evidence of said storm could be confirmed, either by the Coast Guard, the official Lats & Atts weatherman Lee Chesneau, the Cruisers' Net, or NOAA. It sure gave us something to talk about, though! After drinks, we were all in bed by 2000 hours.
Friday, May 11, 2012
After a night of higher winds (we were pretty exposed to wind behind the low reefs, but blocked from heavy wave action) and a few squalls, we awoke to partly sunny skies and a stiff drying breeze. The local boat merchants were bouncing around more than usual as they went about their business. Cereal and bananas made for a quick breakfast. Kathy and Marie checked to make sure each other had the now-traditional Bailey's in their coffees.
It was pretty windy, so we took the big boat over to Petit Bateau Island to walk the shore and trails. I climbed to an overlook to view our previous night's anchorage.
We headed back to Mayreau, anchored, then went ashore to the Last Bar Before the Jungle for brews. They had treated us so well before that they deserved some repeat business. This time they even made us popcorn as a treat--nice people. We explored the rest of the beach then headed back to the boat for lunch, a swim and shower, and R & R.
The Bob boat invited us over for cocktails, so we filled our mugs and headed over. We had the opportunity to get to know a few of our fellow travelers better, including Bob Bitchin, founder of Latitudes & Attitudes, and his wife Jody; Keith, former editor of Easy Rider Magazine and owner of Bikernet.com, and Nyla, whose grandfather was the original Popeye. Drinks turned into dinner as we enjoyed great conversations and stories. The Bob boat had been the recipient of all the leftover BBQ from the previous night's party, which had been poorly attended due to the rain.
It was dark when we dinghied back to De Vinci. Gordon set out to pick up the second load of passengers and the outboard's shift lever failed. Kathy alerted me that he had oars in the water, battling a strong head wind. I came running up on deck, thinking I was going to have to go for a swim, but Gordon was making headway, and we got him back on board. The Bob boat's dinghy ferried the rest of our crew back to join us. Gordon decided he needed another round of cocktails, so we visited some more before calling it a night.
The women beachcombing on Petite Bateau
Saturday, May 12, 2012
A sausage and egg scramble topped off with the now-famous unlabeled salsa verde Jeff had acquired from the vendor in Bequia ("my Momma made this") made for a fine breakfast. We raised the main and headed back for Bequia. Jeff had me maneuver the boat out of the harbor. The Bob boat had departed while we were eating. We had beautiful sailing conditions with 15 knot winds 60 degrees off the bow, partly cloudy skies and a few feet of swells. Those increased to 6-8 feet with winds in the upper 20's as we progressed.
After setting anchor in Admiralty Bay, Chris, Joyce and Gordon set off to replenish their beer and ice stocks. Bob and crew picked up Jeff to go ashore for clearing our of the country. When our dinghy returned, we headed into town to check email and found Jeff still waiting at the Customs building. Apparently, they were to open at 1500--it wasn't until 1600 that they actually got around to it. Most of the shops were closed--Saturdays must be a rest day for everyone on Bequia. We picked up a few supplies, had another drink, then headed back to the boat. It was swimming time--I swam to the beach where we had previously enjoyed the beach BBQ at Jack's. It felt good to get some exercise.
Dinner was fabulous, as always. We enjoyed seared tuna for an appetizer, then scallops, rice and green beans for the main course. I had polished off my 1800 Tequila with the tuna, and we turned our attention to two bottles of Bordeaux Jeff had obtained from the Bob boat in exchange for some jugs of water (definitely a trade to our advantage). The temperature had dropped and we enjoyed a beautiful evening.
Sunday, May 13, 2012
We arose early today to get underway by 0600. We had 60 miles to cover before we would be back in Marigot Harbor, St. Lucia. Breakfast was enjoyed as we savored the view of St. Vincent and the calm of being in the lee of the island, then it was back to the rockin' and rollin' in 6-8 foot seas until we reached the shadow of St. Lucia. Gordon, who was at the helm, took the brunt of a 10-footer that broke over the boat and was thoroughly drenched.
We cruised in close to the shore to enjoy the scenery, finally pulling into the picturesque Marigot Harbor. It was nice to see it in the sunshine. We anchored, had cocktails, then went ashore to clear in and out and check emails.
Back on the boat it was time for a swim, hors d'oeuvres and drinks. These blended gradually into a pasta dinner and more great conversation.
Everyone was in bed early. I got some reading done.
The Bob boat disappears in the large swells
Marigot Harbor, St. Lucia
Monday, May 14, 2012
After breakfast, the shoppers went ashore to see if any stores were open. Jeff and I guarded the boat.
The sail to Martinique was very nice. It started out almost as rough as yesterday, but settled down a bit. We traveled 9-10 knots most of the time. I got some great experience helming the boat under sail.
Tonight's anchorage would be just around the point from Le Marin, by Ste. Anne.
The Bob boat hosted dinner. All the remaining food was organized into dishes to make. It was quite the party, and more than a few folks were feeling no pain by the time we departed for our boat. The party wasn't over yet--we just moved it to our cockpit--what a laugh!
Another beautiful sunset closes out another great day.
Tuesday, May 14, 2012
We were still laughing about last night when we gathered in the cockpit this morning for coffee and breakfast. Everyone started gathering their belongings and packing to leave the boat.
It was a short motor to the harbor in Le Marin. We stopped first at the fuel docks, then headed into the marina. Captain Jeff gathered the passports one last time and headed for Customs and Immigrations.
Chris and Joyce had the name of a taxi driver they had used when they first arrived, and the charter base was kind enough to give him a call and arrange transportation for all of us to our respective hotels. Jeff and Marie, and Chris and Joyce were staying at La Panoramic, which is high on a hill. As our driver was trying to climb the hill, the back hatch of the van (which was being held closed only with a bungie cord due to a broken latch) burst open, strewing luggage down the street. Two large containers of water disappeared down the road and around a corner. We stopped and gathered the luggage, then Marie, Kathy and I, being in the back seat, held on to the stacked luggage as we resumed our ascent with the hatch wide open.
We checked into La Pagerie, and our driver arranged transportation for us to the airport with Tony, a friend, for the morning. Our room wasn't ready yet, so we found a local cafe, the Havana cafe, to sit and a have a couple drinks.
After getting situated in our room, we explored the area. Kathy found some jewelry to remind her of the trip--a couple turtle shaped slides and a necklace that would go with either. We returned to the Havana Cafe for an early dinner, then headed back to the room to repack, shower and relax.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
We were up early today to catch our flight. We went to bed early, so I didn't feel too poorly at 0430 when I followed Kathy into the shower. Julian had delivered on his promise to have Tony pick us up--he was waiting in the lobby when we checked out.
Fortunately, our flights back went better than the trip down. We had a little time to visit with Chris, Joyce and Gordon in Martinique, then ate an early lunch with Gordon in San Juan after making it through the maze that is Immigrations, Customs and another check-in with the TSA (quite the contrast with the easy passage into Martinique several days earlier). Gordon left for his flight to Miami, and Tabitha, Bob's grand-daughter, slipped over to share her gigantic ice cream desert with us.
It was late when we finally got home. We were exhausted, but thoroughly impressed with our tropical adventure. I would love to have had more time to investigate the many interesting places we sailed past. Perhaps more time down there is just what we need!